Volunteers Brave Cold To Keep Ice Cutting Tradition

Ice cutting has been a tradition in Junction City for more than 50 years. Volunteers started cutting into a pond near Highway 34 and Highway 10 on Saturday morning.

Alex Kochanowski started volunteering when he was just a kid.

"My first memory, it was really late at night," he said. "They must have had a lot of trouble cutting the ice and not enough help. And I'd be getting just the small blocks of ice out of the pond and just moving them out of the way so people weren't slipping on them."

Now, he is passing the experience along to his nine-year-old son Josiah. The ice cutting all started back when the Soo Line Railroad stopped supplying ice to the village as they obtained refrigerated units.

"So the village decided to cut ice for their own picnic. When other picnics found out that they had ice, they started selling, so that grew from there," said Pat Arnold of Junction Ice Company.

The ice is cut out into cubes. This year each cube weighs about 240 pounds. They had to start about three weeks earlier than they normally do due to the freezing weather.

"This is the earliest we've cut in probably 10-15 years," said Arnold. "The ice can only be so thick, if it gets too thick, our equipment can't handle it."

The ice was actually too thick for their chains saws this year and they had to pull out the good old manual saw. The cubes are taken to the ice house in the Junction City Village Park and then Stacked between layers of sawdust where they stay pretty well frozen even in the warmer weather.

"We sell it during the summer time and it's a fundraiser for other projects," said Arnold. "We allocate that money for projects around the village and the Central Wisconsin area."

Arnold said they'll have at least 85 to 90 tons of ice by the end of the day. Volunteers said despite the cold, it's a fun experience and a good way to give back to their community.

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